You could be forgiven for believing that we've already achieved the era of autonomous vehicles. Tesla, the electric car manufacturer run by Elon Musk, refers to a version of its Autopilot software as "Full Self Driving". The company released a (misleadingly edited) video of an autonomous vehicle navigating city streets, its drivers' hands on their lap – a style replicated by enthusiasts. Musk has repeatedly assured in speeches and interviews that autonomous vehicles were one to two years away – or, as he put it in 2015, a "solved problem" because "we know what to do and we'll be there in a few years." But the existing Autopilot technology has not yet realized those promises and, as a new New York Times documentary illustrates, the gap in expectation and reality has led to several deadly crashes.
While many people think that Tesla was the first car company to come up with the idea, manufacturers have actually been toying with the concept of autonomous vehicles since the 1930s. In 1939, an exhibit at the New York World's Fair called "Futurama" envisioned a world 20 years into the future in which an automated highway system would guide autonomous vehicles. As with other technological advancements, the idea of self-driving cars would have to wait until our technology had caught up to our drive for innovation. Self-driving vehicles are going to have a significant impact on all aspects of our lives. They have the potential to clean up our air (especially if the cars are electric) and make our commutes more enjoyable.
In the face of daily pandemic-induced upheavals, the notion of "business as usual" can often seem a quaint and distant notion to today's workforce. But even before we all got stuck in never-ending Zoom meetings, the logistics and transportation sectors (like much of America's economy) were already subtly shifting in the face of continuing advances in robotics, machine learning and autonomous navigation technologies. In their new book, The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines, an interdisciplinary team of MIT researchers (leveraging insights gleaned from MIT's multi-year Task Force on the Work of the Future) exam the disconnect between improvements in technology and the benefits derived by workers from those advancements. It's not that America is rife with "low-skill workers" as New York's new mayor seems to believe, but rather that the nation is saturated with low-wage, low-quality positions -- positions which are excluded from the ever-increasing perks and paychecks enjoyed by knowledge workers. The excerpt below examines the impact vehicular automation will have on rank and file employees, rather than the Musks of the world.
A full page advertisement in Sunday's New York Times took aim at Tesla's "Full Self-Driving" software, calling it "the worst software ever sold by a Fortune 500 company" and offering $10,000, the same price as the software itself to the first person who could name "another commercial product from a Fortune 500 company that has a critical malfunction every 8 minutes." The ad was taken out by The Dawn Project, a recently founded organization aiming to ban unsafe software from safety critical systems that can be targeted by military-style hackers, as part of a campaign to remove Tesla Full Self-Driving (FSD) from public roads until it has "1,000 times fewer critical malfunctions." The founder of the advocacy group, Dan O'Dowd, is also the CEO of Green Hill Software, a company that builds operating systems and programming tools for embedded safety and security systems. At CES, the company said BMW's iX vehicle is using its real-time OS and other safety software, and it also announced the availability of its new over-the-air software product and data services for automotive electronic systems. Despite the potential competitive bias of The Dawn Project's founder, Tesla's FSD beta software, an advanced driver assistance system that Tesla owners can access to handle some driving function on city streets, has come under scrutiny in recent months after a series of YouTube videos that showed flaws in the system went viral.
At least one headline, either in newspapers or news channels, is often packed with stories of self-driving vehicles. Driverless cars, as most of us know, have also sparked Hollywood's imagination for the last few decades! The first autonomous cars appeared in the 1980s, with Carnegie Mellon University's Navlab and ALV projects in 1984, and Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University Munich's Eureka Prometheus Project in 1987.Since then, however, limited research had been observed until 2005. SO WHAT'S NEW? It's surprising to know that, the concept of autonomous vehicles is not entirely new, if we drive down history lane a bit. As early as 1925, Houdina Radio Control demonstrated a radiocontrolled driverless car, the "Linrrican Wonder" on New York City streets, traveling up Broadway and down Fifth Avenue through the thick of the traffic.
Much of Waymo's self-driving vehicle testing has largely focused on warm climates, but it's about to give those machines a harsher trial. Waymo will start driving its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica vans in New York City on November 4th. This and a later wave of Jaguar I-Pace EVs will rely on human drivers to map streets and learn from the environment, but the goal is clearly to achieve full autonomy. The test will focus on Manhattan below Central Park (aka midtown and lower Manhattan), including the financial district and a portion of New Jersey through the Lincoln Tunnel. All tests will operate during daylight.
Tesla Inc. shares rallied to a record high on Friday, taking the electric-vehicle maker another step closer to joining an elite group of companies with market valuations of at least $1 trillion. The stock jumped as much as 1.8% to touch a high of $910, before closing at $909.68 in New York. That drove the Elon Musk-led automaker to briefly overtake the valuation of Facebook Inc. The trailblazing electric-vehicle maker is up 29% this year, ahead of S&P 500 Index's 21% advance. Meanwhile, Facebook took a heavy hit on Friday after a cautious outlook from Snapchat parent Snap Inc. weighed on the shares of ad-dependent technology companies.
Kabul – It was the last known missile fired by the United States in its 20-year war in Afghanistan, and the military called it a "righteous strike" -- a drone attack after hours of surveillance Aug. 29 against a vehicle that U.S. officials thought contained an Islamic State bomb and posed an imminent threat to troops at Kabul's airport. But a New York Times investigation of video evidence, along with interviews with more than a dozen of the driver's co-workers and family members in Kabul, raises doubts about the U.S. version of events, including whether explosives were present in the vehicle, whether the driver had a connection to the Islamic State group and whether there was a second explosion after the missile struck the car. Military officials said they did not know the identity of the car's driver when the drone fired but deemed him suspicious because of how they interpreted his activities that day, saying that he possibly visited an Islamic State group safe house and, at one point, loaded what they thought could be explosives into the car. Times reporting has identified the driver as Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group. The evidence, including extensive interviews with family members, co-workers and witnesses, suggests that his travels that day actually involved transporting colleagues to and from work.
In 2017, Kyle Vogt, the founder of GM-backed autonomous car company Cruise, promised that the startup would begin testing driverless vehicles in New York City by 2019. That didn't come to pass -- Cruise put the brakes on the pilot in August 2018 -- but driverless cars have scaled significantly in the years since Vogt's pronouncement. Last month, Ford and Argo AI announced they would work together to launch self-driving cars on Lyft's ride-hailing network in Miami and Austin, Texas. Motional, a joint venture of Aptiv and Hyundai, plans to start testing autonomous vehicles in Los Angeles following a deployment in Downtown Las Vegas. And Intel's Mobileye recently became among the first to pilot self-driving cars in New York City, beating rival Cruise to the punch.
New York – U.S. safety officials opened a preliminary investigation into Tesla's Autopilot after identifying 11 crashes involving the driver assistance system, officials said Monday. The incidents dating back to 2018 included one fatal crash and seven that resulted in injuries to 17 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency "is committed to ensuring the highest standards of safety on the nation's roadways," a spokesperson said, and in order to "better understand the causes of certain Tesla crashes, NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into Tesla Autopilot systems." Tesla founder Elon Musk has defended the Autopilot system and the electric automaker warns that it requires "active driver supervision" behind the wheel. But critics, including in Congress, say the system can be easily fooled and that its name gives drivers a false sense of confidence.